Thanks to changes imposed by Republican lawmakers over the last decade, North Carolina has had the stingiest unemployment insurance system in the country for some time. Today, less than 9% of the unemployed collect the average (and paltry) weekly benefit of $264. With hard economic times at our doorstep, this needs to change right away.
Fortunately, even the ideologues in the Trump administration have grasped this obvious fact. Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new guidance to states that should allow an important change to eligibility for people who become unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is from a Reuters news story summarizing the change:
The U.S. Labor Department on Thursday gave states flexibility to amend their laws to provide unemployment benefits in events related to the coronavirus in an effort to limit the damage on the economy from the pandemic.
States can pay benefits in cases of temporary unemployment because the coronavirus is preventing employees from coming to work. Individuals quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over can also receive unemployment benefits as well as those leaving employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.
North Carolina needs to adopt several immediate changes to its unemployment insurance system (e.g. increasing benefit amounts, extending the time period that people can remain eligible) to make it truly accessible and valuable to the unemployed and to help prop up the economy during hard times, but a quick implementation of the new changes spelled out yesterday by the federal government for people impacted by the coronavirus outbreak is an obvious first step.